Do you have a child who’s struggling with separation anxiety, especially at when being dropped off at school or early education? Perhaps they’re going through a developmental milestone that makes them need Mum or Dad a bit more than before. This is common starting around six months of age, peaks at 14-18 months, then can happen again when your child hits preschool and school-age. Or maybe your child is new to our service or has recently transitioned studios. The transition from home to early education is a milestone for both children and families.  Separation anxiety can even happen for children who’ve been in Little Scholars for a while. It can be hard moving into a new studio where she or he doesn’t yet know new routines, where things are kept and spending time with different educators with different ways of doing things can be overwhelming for the child. This is all normal.

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If you’re at a loss on how to make things easier on your little one, and yourself, we have some ideas.

Our tips for drop-off

  1. Don’t sneak away 🏃‍♂️ We know you’re trying to prevent tears, but sneaking away creates anxiety and mistrust for your child
  2. Keep goodbyes short 🙋‍♀️ There’s a saying that goes, ‘quick goodbyes make for dry eyes’
  3. Be aware of your own emotions 😭 🙅‍♂️ – When you’re calm and confident, that tells your child that s/he is safe. Young children rely on co-regulation to manage their emotions.

Acknowledge and validate their feelings by saying something like “I know goodbyes can be hard, but I always come back. I will see you later today. I love you.” Give a big hug, a smile and a wink.

Talk it out

Then at home, if your child is old enough, have a chat about why she/he is having a hard time at drop-off, and think about what you can do to alleviate it. Ask him or her what make things easier. Perhaps it’s including a comfort toy, blanket or family photo. Maybe you each have a special bracelet that you can touch when you’re missing each other. Make a plan for something special together when you pick him or her up, like a walk or playing a game together, which will give your child something to look forward to through the day.

Prepare in advance

If you’re preparing your child to go to early education or school, it’s best they understand what their days will look like. So the conversation could look something like ‘we’ll all have breakfast together and get ready for the day. Then we’ll get in the car and first we’ll stop at Little Scholars. I’ll walk you in, give you a big hug, and you’ll go off to have a day of play while I go to work. When I finish work, I’ll jump in the car and come right over to pick you up, then we’ll go _____” These conversations may have to happen several times for it to sink in.

Also, if you’re pondering signing your child up for early education, this is why we offer play dates to children newly enroled but yet to start – this allows them to begin to become familiar with their new educators and studios.

Remember, you can always chat with your educator or campus manager about how to help. We’re always available, and we’ve been through this before, we can offer ideas or reassurances everyone will be OK!

We also know separation anxiety can be a two-way street, especially for new parents, or returning to work after maternity leave. Don’t forget we have our Little Scholars app so you can see pictures of your child, and be reassured that if there were tears from your child, they likely didn’t last long and they’re busy having fun and learning while you’re at work.

Related links:

What an incredible asset online media has become when it comes to raising or educating children. From YouTube to Instagram, there’s a wealth of expert information at your fingertips that previous generations simply didn’t have. Thanks to online media, parents and educators can now access an array of information, tips, and tricks on child development, parenting, and education.

And of course, podcasts are an excellent way to learn while on the go. You can listen to them while commuting, during your daily walk, or even before bed. Here we have compiled a list of our favorite parenting and child development podcasts, divided into categories for parents and educators. Check them out!

For parents

Raising Wildings

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A podcast about parenting, alternative education and stepping into the wilderness with children. Each week, Nicki Farrell and Vicci Oliver interview experts who inspire them to answer questions about parenting and education. They also share stories from families who took the leap, and are taking the road less travelled.

Spotify  Apple Podcasts

Parental as Anything

Maggie Dent, one of Australia’s favourite parenting authors and educators gives you practical tips and answers to your real-world parenting dilemmas.

Spotify  ABC Listen app  Apple Podcasts

Respectful Parenting: Janet Lansbury Unruffled

Each episode of Unruffled addresses a reader’s parenting issue through the lens of Janet’s respectful parenting philosophy, consistently offering a perspective shift that ultimately frees parents of the need for scripts, strategies, tricks, and tactics.

Spotify  Apple Podcasts

Emerging Minds

Listen to conversations with experts on a variety of topics related to children’s mental health. Episodes offer practice wisdom from experts in the field and will give you an insight into the work and values of the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health.

RCH Kids Health Info

Based on the popular RCH Kids Health Info fact sheets, the Kids Health Info podcast explores common topics and concerns with experts in children’s health. Hosts Margie Danchin, Lexi Frydenberg and Anthea Rhodes are all paediatricians and mums, so they know first-hand what keeps parents up at night. Every episode features guest experts in a range of child and adolescent health specialties, and lots of practical tips and advice.

Spotify    Apple Podcasts 

How other Dads Dad

Hamish Blake chats with other dads he really admires about their approach to ‘dadding’, and in the process hopefully learn a little, steal some of their hard earned wisdom and help dads dad a tiny bit better.

Spotify  Apple Podcasts  Google Podcasts

The Play Based Learning Podcast

All humans learn through play. Join Kristen RB Peterson of Learning Wild as she chats all things early childhood education, preschool, nature and forest school, homeschool and parenting.

Spotify   Apple Podcasts

Play it forward, a Wearthy podcast

Hosted by international keynote speaker, educator and founder of Wearthy; Lukas Ritson, Play it Forward is an educational podcast about the importance of play. With the increase of technological advancement, it has never been harder to get kids playing outside

Spotify   Apple Podcasts

Early Childhood Perspectives

 

Early Childhood perspectives is a fortnightly podcast devoted to exploring the often overlooked concepts and issues of the Australian Early Years Sector.

Apple Podcasts    Soundcloud

Provoking Minds – an Early Childhood Podcast

This podcast covers meaningful topics in early childhood education with some of the sector’s most experienced educators and subject matter experts. With each short episode, its aim is to provoke minds and inspire excellence in early childhood education.

Spotify         Apple Podcasts

OSHC After The Bell

Barbi Clendining from Firefly HR and Saurubh Malviya from We Belong Education have teamed up to bring to you a fun and informative conversation and talk about every aspect of the Out of School Hours profession.

Spotify   Apple Podcasts

International podcasts

OK, we fibbed. It’s not JUST Australian podcasts. Here’s a few international podcasts that are quite popular with the kids these days. (and by kids, we don’t mean baby goats, or children really, but we’re just trying to sound cool)

Loose Parts Nature Play

Building creativity one leaf and bolt at a time. Join Dr. Carla Gull, American educator and mother of four boys, as she talks about getting outside and exploring loose parts.

Spotify   Apple Podcasts

Parenting Hell

A funny take on parenting with UK hosts Rob & Josh as they share their tales of parenting woe and chat to celebrity parents about how they’re coping, or not coping.

Spotify

Mom and Dad Are Fighting

Slate’s parenting show – Jamilah Lemieux, Zak Rosen, and Elizabeth Newcamp share triumphs and fails and offer advice on parenting kids from toddler to teens.

Spotify      Apple Podcasts       YouTube

Good Inside with Dr Becky

Join American clinical psychologist and mother of three Dr. Becky Kennedy on her weekly podcast, as she takes on tough parenting questions and delivers actionable guidance—all in short episodes, because we know time is hard to find as a parent. Her breakthrough approach has enabled thousands of people to get more comfortable in discomfort, make repairs after mistakes, and always see the good inside.

Spotify     Apple Podcasts

Not Another Mummy Podcast

This is one of the UK’s top parenting podcasts with previous guests including Philippa Perry, Dr Rangan Chatterjee, Emma Bunton and more. Host Alison Perry chats to a different guest each episode about parenting and family issues

The Modern Dads Podcast

Each episode discusses issues today’s fathers face navigating work, parenthood, relationships and play. We share stories of dads who are active and engaged in the decisions, the drudgery, and the pains and the joys of parenthood. Our parenting podcast not only brings modern dads into the conversation, but also – regardless of gender – our spouses and partners, friends and colleagues, and leaders in business, entertainment and media.

Spotify      Apple Podcasts

 
 
 

 

Babies are a mysterious bunch. For many months, their main forms of communication are cries, squeaks, gestures and coos. Parents fall madly in love with these little humans without knowing what they’re thinking and feeling, often just guessing at best.

How babies play, how and what they’re learning, and what they’re interested in can be a mystery to many. Many parents have seen their baby pull out every book off a shelf, for example, watch it fall, then grab another, while that parent scratches his or her head and says ‘why?’

Babies are a mysterious bunch. For many months, their main forms of communication are cries, squeaks, gestures and coos. Parents fall madly in love with these little humans without knowing what they’re thinking and feeling, often just guessing at best.

How babies play, how and what they’re learning, and what they’re interested in can be a mystery to many. Many parents have seen their baby pull out every book off a shelf, for example, watch it fall, then grab another, while that parent scratches his or her head and says ‘why?’

There’s an answer. It’s a schema. A schema is both a category of knowledge as well as the process of acquiring that knowledge. In play, babies are often involved in repeated actions or certain behaviours as they explore the world around them and try to find out how things work. Those repetitive actions, such as a baby pulling out book after book, allows a child to practice and construct meaning to something, until they’ve understood that schema. Then they find something else to focus on and lather, rinse, repeat!

As Yvette, educational lead from our Burleigh campus says, it’s children’s development making sense.

“All of those little things that you see children do that seem a bit cute, or frustrating even, like throwing, it’s a schema, a child’s pathway of development for making sense of the world,” Yvette says.

The repetitive action of a schema allows a child to practice and construct meaning until they have mastered the understanding of the schema. Being aware of play schemas helps in two ways:

  1. It helps parents and educators to differentiate between ‘behaviour’ vs ‘natural urges’ which move past the belief that a child is just being ‘difficult’
  2. It helps parents and educators to plan learning environments that support the development and mastery of schemas

There are a number of types of schemas when it comes to babies.

Trajectory schema – The trajectory schema is one of the earliest schemas observed in babies. They are fascinated with how they, and objects move. Children will often throw objects or food from their pram or highchair. They climb and jump in puddles and enjoy exploring running water.

Transporting schema – Little ones enjoy repeatedly moving resources around, from one place to another. They will carry many items at a time using their hands, pockets, containers,
baskets, bags, or anything else that will hold their newfound treasures.

Enclosing schema – Children show an interest in enclosed spaces. They may want to sit (and hide in) boxes or laundry baskets. Or they may show interest constructing fences and barricades to enclose toy animals or themselves.

Rotational schema – Children showing a rotational schema may display a preference for turning taps on and off, winding and unwinding string, and playing with
hoops. They may also be fascinated with the physical experience of twirling and twisting their body, spinning around on the spot, or rolling themselves down a hill. They have an interest in things that turn, such as wheels and windmills. They enjoy rolling tyres around, turning lids and watching the washing machine on a spin cycle.

Enveloping schema – Children with an enveloping schema are interested in covering and hiding items, including themselves. They will enjoy dressing up, and filling and emptying bags and containers with different objects.

Connecting schema – Children displaying the connecting schema want to join items together. They find resources like string to tie things. They connect and disconnect toys such as rail tracks.
They enjoy construction toys, and doing arts and crafts where they can glue and stick pieces together.

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Orientation schema – Children like to turn objects and themselves around and upside down, to get a view from under the table or from the branch of a tree. They may bend over and look at the world backwards through their legs. They enjoy seeing things from a different view when exploring using cardboard tubes, binoculars or a magnifying glass.

By adapting this theory, we have been able to slow down and become more in tune to the children and noticing their behaviour patterns in play. It is now so important to us that we allow our babies and young children the time to explore the repetitive actions of schematic play.

-Jodie, lead educator

Theory of Cognitive Development

Jean Piaget was one of the first to use the term “schema” back in 1923. Piaget was an important child development theorist and his Theory of Cognitive Development was and still is read and followed today by early childhood specialists. He was one of the first who believed children think differently than adults and that they have an innate desire to learn and actively build up their knowledge about the world. They are not passive creatures waiting for someone to teach them.

Susan, our group pedagogical leader, is bringing her schema knowledge across our campuses to the lead educators in the nursery and toddler studios in 2023. Learn a bit more below about how we use schema theory, and how one educator has taken it on in her nursery.

Schematic Pedagogy

Through our collective curriculum, our educators are guided through a ‘schematic lens’, meaning they can plan for children’s thinking, not just activities. This has a strong link to our Collective Curriculum, our educational program for children.

The learning environment

Our educators apply teaching methodologies to design their play spaces and are intentional in the resources offered.

Observing and planning for children’s thinking

Through our collective curriculum, our educators observe the children through their play, to determine schemas explored through the children’s engagement to an activity or resource. Through observing patterns of learning, our trained educators can plan forward to scaffold their cognitive capabilities.

Partnering with children in play

Through ongoing mentoring and coaching, our educators are able use their knowledge of schemas and plan effectively. Our educators are encouraged to partner with children in their play and observe behaviours explored through schemas.

“Schemas are an intrinsic part of child development, knowledge to schemas provide our team of educators an opportunity to identify and encourage independence in children as they explore patterns of movement, often related to schemas,” Susan says. “Supporting assessing through a schematic lens, provides our educators with a framework which can be used to analyse children’s learning, supporting the planning process within our curriculum.”

Educator Q&A

You may be wondering if you have a baby or a small toddler in one of our campuses, how we use schemas to help their development. We talked to one of the educators at our Deception Bay campus about using schemas for educational programming. Deception Bay Little Scholars was recently rated as Exceeding the National Quality Standard (NQS) after it was assessed by the Department of Education. The NQS sets a high national benchmark for early childhood education and care in Australia. Jodie, lead educator in the nursery studio, says learning about schemas was a game-changer.

  • Q: When did you first learn about schemas?
    A: I first heard about schematic play by attending a professional development webinar with Semann & Slattery. It resonated with me as I had observed children engage in the different schemas, but didn’t know about schematic play. I found it so intriguing and needed to do more research. I found Jean Piaget’s psychology theory; “while a schema in psychology still refers to how information is organized, it focuses on how the human mind does it”. I have now learnt the what, why and how children learn through repeated patterns of behaviour.
  • Q: How long have you worked with nursery children? What were your interactions like before?
    A: I have worked in the industry coming up to 14 years and only in the past four years, I have engaged in a more full-time educating role with the nursery and toddler-aged children. Prior to this, I struggled with understanding this age group on the emphasis of what, why and how this age group do things so differently, developmentally, and emotionally. Especially toddlers as they are so spontaneous and busy, and how I could best support them as an educator. It wasn’t until I had my second child, who was so vastly different to my first child! She was much more inquisitive, very busy and just like a little tornado ripping through the house. She was never content until she had everything out on the floor! For the most part she never sat and engaged with her toys, (like my first child did). However, could sit very quietly and go unnoticed at times, especially when she would discover the creams on the change table, or the dirt and mud in the backyard while I hung out the washing.
    [After learning about schema theory] I was able to resonate with this from my daughter’s tornado toddler years. That it seemed she wasn’t content until she had gone around and pulled everything out, to not even play with any of it, but just move it from place to place. When in fact she was learning! She was learning about horizontal trajectory (dropping objects), vertical trajectory (throwing, pulling, pushing, pointing, climbing) and transporting (moving objects from place to place).
  • Q: How has your knowledge of schemas adjusted how you spend time with babies and toddlers?
    A: With the support and guidance from Susan, I have since adapted Jean Piaget’s schema theory into our collective educational program. By adapting this theory, we have been able to slow down and become more in tune to the children and noticing their behaviour patterns in play. It is now so important to us that we allow our babies and young children the time to explore the repetitive actions of schematic play. Allowing our babies to construct meaning in what they are doing, as babies and young children learn best through, opportunities to engage in active learning through hands on experiences. These opportunities allow babies and children to problem solve, question, predict, imagine, speculate, and develop independent choices as they make decisions in an area, they are familiar with.
  • Q: How do you see schema theory in action in your nursery?
    A: Our younger babies spend a lot of their time engaging in trajectory play. They can be observed doing tummy time, reaching out for objects, kicking their legs, opening and closing their hands, grasping objects, waving arms up and down or side to side. Then onto rolling, sitting, and crawling where their patterns of movement emerge to larger body movements in horizontal and vertical lines e.g., pushing, kicking pointing, rocking, climbing, or stepping up and down as they work towards their important milestone of walking (horizontal trajectory).

Both our younger babies and older babies really enjoy dropping objects or putting things in and out of containers (vertical trajectory). Using old formula tins and cutting an opening in the top with lids from jar foods a milk bottle lids, is a big favourite.

Our older babies are seen continuing with trajectory and begin to start exploring other forms of schematic play like, transporting, rotation, connecting  and this can lead to a disconnecting schema where the child builds something that they can demolish or through [activities like] untying knots, as well as enclosing, positioning, enveloping and orientation, such as looking at things from different viewpoints like hanging upside down, looking through their legs, looking at things upside down. No wonder our little people are so busy and on the go all the time!

Thanks, Jodie!

Related:

Pedagogical Practices: Bringing new learning techniques to Little Scholars

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